Lewis Hamilton will start the crucial final qualifying session as the fastest man after beating title rival Max Verstappen in final practice in Abu Dhabi.

The Briton blazed a blistering pace throughout the hour, which he spent predominantly on the fastest soft-compound tire, progressively lowering the bar until he was more than a second quicker than Verstappen with 10 minutes remaining with a best time of 1m23.274s.

Verstappen’s first half-hour was more subdued, spent on the slower medium-compound tire before being recalled to his garage for a rear wing change. Red Bull Racing had identified a potential reliability issue and mechanics were seen analyzing the DRS actuator — a known problem part for the RB16B — before making the wholesale change to the car to try to maintain a lower-downforce package in an attempt to keep pace with Mercedes down the straights.

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Lewis Hamilton laid down the gauntlet in the second practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix while title rival Max Verstappen — who led the way in the opening session — trailed off the pace.

Mercedes’ Hamilton spent the hour lowering the benchmark, first on the medium tires and later on the softs for his qualifying simulation run as the sun set and the track cooled. After a false start with a lock-up, he embarked on his ultimate lap, lowering the benchmark to 1m23.691s, which stood until the end of the session.

The practice session was red flagged as the clock expired when Kimi Raikkonen endured a heavy smash through Turn 13 exiting the hotel section of the track. The Finn, who is entering his final Formula 1 grand prix this weekend, lost the rear of his Alfa Romeo as he navigated the off-camber turn, smacking into the barriers rear first before rotating sideways, dealing his car substantial damage and ensuring a long night for his mechanics.

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Max Verstappen claimed top spot in first practice at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton had his best time deleted for exceeding track limits.

The Dutchman used two sets of soft-compound tires to set a time of 1m 25.009s, pipping Valtteri Bottas by 0.196s despite complaining of a right-leaning steering wheel during the first half of the session.

Lewis Hamilton had taken second spot with a fresh set of softs of his own to trail Verstappen by just 0.033s, but the time was erased for running wide exiting the last corner, dropping him to third and 0.346s short of his title rival. Sergio Perez completed the top four just 0.008s further adrift.

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You simply couldn’t write it. After 21 rounds Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are tied on points and brimming with animosity after a dynamite inaugural grand prix in Saudi Arabia, and it’s anyone’s guess who’s going to leave Abu Dhabi with the championship this weekend.

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was always going to be memorable for setting the scene for the last race of the season, but a chaotic inaugural event in Jeddah delivered plenty of its own highlights.

Lewis Hamilton has accused Max Verstappen of dirty driving after scraping home to a controversial victory against his title rival at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, levelling the scores ahead of the final race of the season.

Lewis Hamilton has won a chaotic and controversial Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after crashing twice with title rival Max Verstappen to zero the championship with one race remaining.

The first-ever race in Jeddah ended acrimoniously, with the warring title rivals accusing each other of dirty driving and toxic tactics after three standing restarts, two red flags and a string of virtual safety cars that stretched and shrunk the gap between the leaders throughout before Verstappen waved Hamilton into the lead after intervention from race control.

The grand prix started tamely, with Hamilton leading teammate Valtteri Bottas easily off the line to hold Verstappen in third, but the calm lasted only nine laps, when the first safety car was deployed to clean up Mick Schumacher’s high-speed crash at Turn 22.

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Lewis Hamilton has eased his way to pole position after championship leader Max Verstappen smashed his car at the death of a thrilling qualifying hour in Saudi Arabia.

Lewis Hamilton topped second practice at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after the session was truncated to clean up a high-speed crash by Charles Leclerc crash.

The session had settled into a rhythm of long-run simulation with five minutes remaining in the hour when Leclerc lost control of his Ferrari through the rapid Turn 22 bend. The rear of his car stepped out as he navigated the left-hander, spinning the car backwards into the barriers in a 120mph smash.

Leclerc thankfully emerged unscathed but winded, though the car was substantially damaged, precipitating a long night for the Ferrari mechanics.

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Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton set the early benchmark at the first-ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, topping first practice ahead of title rival Max Verstappen.

In a busy but controlled exploratory first sample of the circuit, Hamilton waited until late in the session to find pace with a new set of soft tires, setting a time of 1m29.786s to end the opening practice hour atop the time sheet.

Championship leader Verstappen was only 0.056s slower than Hamilton, but his practice performance was eye-catching more for his flurry of confidently aggressive early laps on the hard tire, the best time of which was less than 0.2s slower than his ultimate lap.

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Red Bull Racing is scrambling to keep Max Verstappen’s title campaign alive against Lewis Hamilton, who’s found form just in the nick of time.

Lewis Hamilton still trails Max Verstappen in the championship ahead of the double-header season finale, but his run of sparkling form in the last two rounds makes him difficult to resist as the title favourite.

Lewis Hamilton made victory look easy in Qatar, blowing away title rival Max Verstappen and reducing his championship deficit to just eight points.

Lewis Hamilton has cruised to a crucial victory at the Qatar Grand Prix to slice his title deficit to Max Verstappen down to just eight points with two races still to run.

Lewis Hamilton trails Max Verstappen by just eight points in the championships standings after an easy victory over Max Verstappen at the first Qatar Grand Prix.

The Briton got the perfect start to assert control over the race, but Verstappen was determined not to be left languishing in the midfield, having started the race seventh following a penalty for ignoring yellow flags in qualifying. A perfect launch on the clean side of the track lifted him three places on the first lap, and passes on Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso had him back in second by lap five.

Four seconds split the title protagonists, and Verstappen started to light up the timing board, but the visage of competitiveness was short lived. Hamilton put his foot down just as the gap began to shrink, and a little more than 10 laps later the margin blew out to 10s.

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Lewis Hamilton holds all the cards in Formula 1’s first-ever Qatar Grand Prix, and with car pace and strategy on his side, he’s well placed to half his championship deficit to Max Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton ended practice at the Qatar Grand Prix comfortably ahead of the pack after a second successive day of rear wing problems for Red Bull Racing.

Bottas was quicker than Hamilton around the new-to-F1 Losail International Circuit for the third straight session, topping the final practice hour by 0.078s. Despite FP3 taking place in unrepresentatively warm daytime conditions in comparison to qualifying or the race, the Finn lowered the track record by another 0.8s, down to 1m22.573s.

Red Bull had no answer to the Mercedes pace in the final practice hour, with Max Verstappen 0.341s off the pace in third and teammate Sergio Perez another 0.2 further back in fifth.

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Lewis Hamilton has taken the season’s most dominant pole position to beat title rival Max Verstappen to the front row of the grid under lights at the Qatar Grand Prix.